Tactical Christmas: Nashua officers deliver gifts, food to 24 families for Christmas – The Union Leader

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Mostly cloudy skies early, then partly cloudy after midnight. A few flurries or snow showers possible. Low around 5F. Winds NNW at 10 to 20 mph..
Mostly cloudy skies early, then partly cloudy after midnight. A few flurries or snow showers possible. Low around 5F. Winds NNW at 10 to 20 mph.
Updated: January 10, 2022 @ 11:09 pm
Outside their BearCat armored vehicle, Santa Claus and Nashua SWAT team officers carry food and toys to familes in the city on Tuesday, Dec. 21.
Santa Claus hops in to the Nashua SWAT team armored vehicle as he delivers toys and food with Nashua officers on Dec. 21, 2021.
Santa Claus gets help from the Nashua SWAT team delivering food and toys to families.
Nashua SWAT team members make a delivery of food and toys on Dec. 21, 2021.
David Castro, 3, gets a special delivery from Nashua SWAT team leader Dave Elliott as his babysitter, Familia Flores, looks on.

Outside their BearCat armored vehicle, Santa Claus and Nashua SWAT team officers carry food and toys to familes in the city on Tuesday, Dec. 21.
David Castro, 3, gets a special delivery from Nashua SWAT team leader Dave Elliott as his babysitter, Familia Flores, looks on.
M embers of the Nashua police SWAT team converged on Palm Street Tuesday morning — but not for a volatile situation.
A dozen children from Marguerite’s Place day care greeted them with the holiday classic “Jingle Bells.”
The officers — or “badge-wearing elves” — gave each child a teddy bear and other small toys as part of the Nashua Police Athletic League’s eighth annual Tactical Christmas program. The special mission involved Santa Claus himself, who drove around the city inside the department’s heavy-armor police truck.
“Thank you, Santa,” one young girl yelled out.
Each year, PAL and the police department select families to receive gifts, clothing, household supplies and a full holiday meal from Whole Foods. In all, two different groups made stops at 24 homes across the Gate City delivering holiday cheer.
Earlier this year, the organization was named a 2021 Champion in Action and was awarded $35,000 in unrestricted funding from Citizens bank.
The Champions in Action program provides financial, volunteer and public relations support to local nonprofits to help support and expand their mission. The New Hampshire Union Leader is the program’s media partner.
Santa Claus gets help from the Nashua SWAT team delivering food and toys to families.
The morning started at 8:45 at Whole Foods, where officers and store staff loaded the donated meals, each of which included a turkey.
The convoy of police vehicles quickly drove from house to house, much like Santa on Christmas eve, minus the sleigh.
About 25 officers, including Deputy Chief Kevin Rourke, joined in. One of his favorite parts is the “kids’ faces when they open the door” and see Santa with the officers.
“It is just an amazing experience both for us and the families,” said Rourke, who has been named the city’s next police chief and will begin March 1.
Santa Claus hops in to the Nashua SWAT team armored vehicle as he delivers toys and food with Nashua officers on Dec. 21, 2021.
Many of the families have children involved at the PAL, and others were referred by police officers.
“A lot of these officers volunteer their time off-duty going to the PAL center and working with these children,” Rourke said. The relationships last years.
The families each made wish lists and provided clothing sizes as part of the program.
“We know what the kids like,” said Jen Miller, development director.
One mother, Kelly Grzech, said Christmas will be special this year. Her 7-year-old son started going to PAL this summer.
“It wouldn’t be as good as I can tell it is going to be,” she said of Christmas. “I am a single mom with two boys, one who is autistic and one with behavioral needs.”
The toys included checkers, which her son likes to play with “Officer Ben” Stusse, the city’s PAL officer. Her other son, with autism, is 9.
“I would not have been able to provide this by any means,” Grzech said. “It is like a dream for me to see my kids happy. It is going to be great.”
Santa handed out candy canes and officers gave stuffed animals and footballs to any child they saw during the planned routes around the city.
“Oh my God, thank you,” one family member said as the stream of officers arrived to drop off the food and toys.
Nashua SWAT team members make a delivery of food and toys on Dec. 21, 2021.
Philip Belmont, who served as the PAL officer from 2013 to 2016, comes back every year though he has since taken a job as a federal agent. He was a medic on the SWAT team when the idea was born.
“There is a pretty high need for the kids,” he said. “Some of these kids have absolutely nothing.”
A lot of the officers consider it the best day of the year, Belmont said. Most volunteer their time.
“You get to experience what Christmas really means,” he said. “That’s really what it’s about. As long as we’re out here helping other people and serving other people, there always will be a Santa Claus.”
Outside Grzech’s home, the officers dropped off a few gifts to a young boy next door who saw the commotion through a glass door.
The neighbor said he was confused why the armored vehicle rolled into the neighborhood.
“I was like, ‘What the heck is going on? We have a bomb squad coming,’” the man joked. “Then all of a sudden I saw Santa.”
Grzech said she was shocked to be selected.
“(My kids) are going to have an amazing Christmas this year,” Grzech said. “We wouldn’t have Christmas like this. I’ve never seen anything like it. This is amazing.”
This year’s Tactical Christmas was made possible with a partnership between Nashua PAL, Nashua police, Boston Billiards, SLC Holdings, Whole Foods Nashua, Nashua Senior Center, Best Ford, AJ’s Sports Bar, Pheasant Lane Mall and private donors.
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